Posts Tagged ‘postsecondary’

Using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool to Address Gaps in “Policy” and Practice

Wednesday, August 7th, 2019

Guest Post by Whitney Thompson, Senior Director for Career and Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board

As the third largest community college system in the country, Illinois community colleges serve over 600,000 residents each year in credit, noncredit and continuing education courses. The Illinois community college system, made up of 48 colleges, has over 4,265 active, approved CTE programs spanning across all 16 Career Clusters®, which provide high-quality, accessible, cost-effective educational opportunities to the entire state.

In early 2018, Illinois embarked on the Postsecondary High-Quality CTE Program Approval Project. The goals are to assess existing program development and approval processes, align approval and review systems, identify technical assistance needs across the system, and share lessons learned within the broader CTE community.

This project was initiated just after Illinois went without a budget for close to two years. To add, investments in higher education over the last decade have been decreasing, or at best stagnant. Yet, thriving, modernized CTE programs across Illinois are critical to meeting the state’s goal of 60 percent of all Illinoisans with a postsecondary degree or credential by 2025.

What We Found

Because of Illinois’ challenging fiscal predicament, the colleges were facing significant staff turnover. With this, the system was experiencing a hemorrhaging of institutional knowledge. One major goal of this project, although not as originally designed, became to document practices and processes to build institutional knowledge.

The loss of institutional knowledge was also recognized among Board staff. During the self-assessment of our policies using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool, we found that in practice we were upholding quality metrics, but there were a number of critical gaps in “policy” – documented in our Program Approval Manual. In the end, these high-quality practices were being upheld by one to two staff.

In examining our policies at the state level, we found two areas that were “building” or “promising” but not “strong:” secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning. After our state-level assessment, we brought together ten participating colleges to conduct assessments of their own program approval policies and practices, with an additional lens of how they went about developing programs.

While there was some initial resistance to a couple of the elements, namely requiring secondary articulation for all CTE programs and identifying a common set of statewide standards for CTE, largely, the colleges felt it to be a helpful exercise. Similar to our assessment at the state level, the colleges also found that secondary-postsecondary alignment and experiential learning did not meet the “strong” benchmark as desired. Additionally, a few colleges noted that the use of labor market information could be strengthened in the program development process, but more education and training may be needed for staff in retrieving and analyzing this data

Alongside these examinations of our program approval policies and practices, we embarked on research to better understand program development at the campus level. We engaged our partners at the Illinois Center for Specialized Professional Support to conduct fieldwork on each college’s program development process as well as identify needs for technical assistance. Their fieldwork produced a list of areas in which the Board can help the colleges be more systematic in their program development activities and documentation.

Next Steps

While the participating colleges were steadfast for change, we are finding that there may not be enough buy-in from the system at this time to completely revise the program approval policy due to its grounding in administrative rules. However, in the midst of our project, Congress passed Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V), allowing us to leverage several principles to encourage each and every college to take another step forward.

Specifically, we will be leveraging Perkins V’s calls for smooth transitions (including multiple entry and exit points in programs of study), equitable access and outcomes, alignment to secondary programs, and expanding work-based learning. We look forward to continuing this work well into the future as support for CTE is echoed nationally. Advance CTE has been instrumental in giving CTE a voice on the national stage and supporting states in fostering high-quality CTE programs across the P-20 continuum.

To learn more about Illinois Postsecondary CTE visit: https://www.iccb.org/cte/.

By Kate Blosveren Kreamer in Public Policy
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New Advance CTE Report: Developing Credit for Prior Learning Policies to Support Postsecondary Attainment for Every Learner

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

College enrollment has increased over the past 10 years and is projected to continue growing over the next 10 for both full- and part-time students. At the same time, institutions face low retention and graduation rates. One policy that shows promise in increasing completion rates, especially for adult learners and those who served in the military, is credit for prior learning (CPL). CPL practices have been found increase access to and the affordability of postsecondary opportunities for a variety of learners — particularly adults and members of the military.

CPL policies can be found at the state, postsecondary system or institutional levels — and most often a combination of the three. Overall, control of CPL implementation tends to be greater at the local level than at the state level. Although creation and implementation of a formalized CPL policy typically falls to the state’s higher education system or the individual institution, state-level leadership can play a vital role in building support and momentum among stakeholders. 

To help states explore the significant impact of CPL and what their role should be in supporting these opportunities, Advance CTE- with support from the Joyce Foundation- examined research and best practices in Developing Credit for Prior Learning Policies to Support Postsecondary Attainment for Every Learner. This report features data on the benefits of CPL for learners, as well as best practices in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia across topics such as CPL for military service members, portability of credits, building in apprenticeships and industry recognized credentials in CPL, and communicating about CPL opportunities.

The report concludes with recommendations for how states can support CPL with and without statute. The strongest action a state can take is to enact a state statute that calls for implementation of CPL in all public two- and four-year institutions. Minimally, every state should have statewide policies that address CPL’s quality and consistency and ideally make implementation mandatory at each public institution. Aside from state statute, the report recommends that CPL should be incorporated into the state’s broad postsecondary agenda in the following ways:

  • Visible state leaders, such as State CTE Directors, governors and state higher education officials, should elevate CPL to be part of the conversation around education and workforce development.
  • The state should lead the efforts to publicize what CPL opportunities exist.
  • The state should facilitate coordination among the state, system and institutional levels in how CPL policies are developed and implemented.

The full report can be found here and a webinar on CPL featuring CPL leaders from Virginia and Louisiana can be accessed here.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Advance CTE Resources
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The Colorado Community College System is creating a new vision for career and technical education – and using Advance CTE’s Policy Benchmark Tool to support that process

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

As Colorado’s population and economy continue to boom, employer demand for skilled workers is at an all-time high. Career Technical Education (CTE) can meet that need and more. Last October, the Colorado Community College System (CCCS), which houses the state’s CTE operations, began the process of developing a statewide strategic plan for CTE. Branded “Next Gen Ed,” the plan aims to strengthen Colorado communities with a new direction for the role of CTE – not just as academic and technical preparation, but as a complete and impactful experience that prepares learners for their career, life, and civic participation.

Across the state, we are hosting visioning sessions with business and industry leaders, community members, and parents to understand how we can work together to provide an education for students that meets future workforce needs. Some of the topics being discussed are perceptions of CTE, work-based learning, and the transition from postsecondary education to the workforce. A critical aspect we’re also addressing in constructing our strategic plan is CTE program quality, and to help us do that, we’re using Advance CTE’s Program Approval Policy Benchmark Tool.

The Benchmark Tool is designed to help states evaluate and strengthen their secondary and postsecondary Career Technical Education (CTE) program approval policies and processes. It specifies the core elements that an effective program approval policy should have, and provides a step-by-step guide for CTE leaders to identify gaps in current state policy and prioritize areas for improvement. This can better ensure that all postsecondary CTE programs are of the highest quality and relevance.

In Colorado, we are using the tool to assess our state-level postsecondary policies, and we are introducing the tool to our academic discipline groups, which include key faculty from specific program areas from all the state’s community colleges. While the tool focuses on policy, using it means taking a deep dive into practice. How do we actually align programs of study with academic and industry standards? What does it mean to collaborate with our high school counterparts and with industry? These conversations have been supported by Advance CTE through a grant from The Joyce Foundation.

We know there is still a need for more career development in Colorado; we want all students regardless of interest to be prepared to enter the workforce and beyond. Our hope is that CTE will drive the state’s education, workforce and economic priorities. I am excited about our new CTE vision and strategic plan; I know it will contribute to stronger communities and will benefit this generation and future ones.

To learn more about CTE in Colorado and to stay up to date on the visioning process, visit coloradostateplan.com.

Sarah Heath, State CTE Director and Associate Vice Chancellor, Colorado Community College System

By Ashleigh McFadden in Uncategorized
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The National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine Releases Report Focused on Strengthening the STEM Talent Pipeline at MSIs

Monday, February 11th, 2019

There are roughly 700 Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) that produce one fifth of the nation’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) bachelor’s degrees. To discuss the importance of these institutions to the nation’s future, on February 6, the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine hosted a national convocation. The convocation focused on how to leverage MSIs to strengthen the STEM talent pipeline for nontraditional students and students of color.

The convocation was rooted in the National Academies’ report, Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce, which identifies promising programs and strategies to increase the quantity and quality of MSI STEM graduates and conveys the importance of MSIs to stakeholders. The report was developed with input from a committee with representation from industry, education and workforce institutions and identified seven promising practices to strengthen the quality of STEM education, research and workforce preparation for MSIs learners:

Key to the report is the emphasis it places on intentionality. To help illustrate what it would mean to be intentional about strengthening and supporting MSIs, the National Academies hosted panels and facilitated breakout groups at the convocation.The panels featured higher education, civil rights, industry and workforce experts with experience working with or advocating on behalf of learners at MSIs. Panelists discussed the importance of being intentional about establishing partnerships that outlast leadership and fostering an inclusive campus culture, among other topics.

Audience members then participated in solution-oriented breakout groups that focused on reimagining MSI partnerships, building financial capacity for MSIs, and being cognizant of culture and intentionality at MSIs. Participants in these breakout groups suggested establishing partnerships that would prepare MSI learners for the future of work, establishing a coalition of business partners to fund MSIs, and engaging non-minority faculty to mentor MSI students, among other solutions.

As state leaders work on promoting equity in Career Technical Education (CTE), they should consider how they can leverage the seven promising practices identified in the National Academies’ report to intentionally strengthen the STEM and other workforce talent pipelines for students of color. To learn more about how to advance equity in CTE, see Advance CTE’s Making Good on the Promise Series, which provides promising solutions to help state leaders close equity gaps in CTE.

Brianna McCain, Policy Associate

By Brianna McCain in Uncategorized
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HEA in Practice: UVM’s TRIO Upward Bound Program

Friday, January 4th, 2019

The Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizes the Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO), with the purpose of supporting learners at the secondary level in achieving a postsecondary education. TRIO encompasses six programs targeted for low-income learners, first generation college students and learners with disabilities to excel from middle school through postsecondary enrollment. One program included in TRIO is Upward Bound, which supports low-income and first generation high school students through high school graduation, college enrollment and college completion. In the fall of 2018, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance published a report that reviewed 200 Upward Bound programs across the country and came to the conclusion that such programs increase the number of colleges students applied to and led students to apply to more selective institutions.

Upward Bound has over 950 programs across the country. In Vermont, the University of Vermont’s (UVM) TRIO Upward Bound program (UVM Upward Bound) has found success. Through UVM Upward Bound, the university coordinates with Burlington High School and Winooski High School to support students in grades nine through twelve in progressing through secondary and postsecondary education. The program includes 63 students and works with the school counselors and teachers of both high schools to provide services such as college and career preparation. Additionally, the six-week summer program (held at the UVM campus) gives high school seniors the chance to plan for the college application process and write their application essays. The summer program also brings students to visit colleges outside of the state.

Recently, UVM Upward Bound was given a supplemental grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) opportunities for applicable students. In the summer of 2017, UVM joined 50 Upward Bound colleges in putting in place a three year STEM program called Teaching through Technology (T3). This new grant will further support STEM for Upward Bound students by allowing new technology to be acquired as well as hiring additional instructors.

Across Vermont, public colleges are coordinating with secondary schools through TRIO to support all learners in a pathway from secondary to postsecondary achievement.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: Looking Ahead

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Advance CTE wrote a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore the future landscape of community college. Check out previous blogs on the history of free college, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program and challenges and limitations to free college programs.

As of September 2018, there are over 350 local and state college promise programs across the country. Though the source of funding for free college varies , the goal of increasing access despite the growing cost of college is the commonality. So far, the 2018 election cycle has seen a number of candidates include some form of free college in their platform. Overall, ten Democratic gubernatorial candidates are promoting free college in their campaign. For example, Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous is advocating for free community college and debt free four-year college, Arizona gubernatorial candidate David Garcia is supporting a proposal to make four-year public colleges free and Connecticut gubernatorial Ned Lamont is proposing making the first two years free at any state public college.

At the federal level, various members of Congress have introduced legislation that promotes free college. Perhaps most well known is Senator Bernie Sanders’ (VT-I) “College for All,” proposed in the spring of 2017, that promotes measures such as making all public colleges free for learners with a household income of up to $125,000 and having all community colleges be tuition free. In the spring of 2018 Senator Brian Schatz (HI-D) introduced the “Debt Free College Act” that proposes measures to make college debt free with a focus on the total fees associated with college (such as textbooks, food and housing) instead of only tuition.

The Institute for Higher Education explored the concept of free college, and came up with five ways to fix current programs and build “equity-driven federal and state free-college programs:”

  1. Invest first and foremost in low-income students;
  2. Fund non-tuition expenses for low-income students;
  3. Include four-year colleges in free college programs;
  4. Support existing state need-based grant programs; and
  5. Avoid restrictive or punitive participation requirements, such as post-college residency requirements

 

Additionally, the Education Trust evaluated free college programs through an equity lens, and developed equity driven guidelines to rate and improve current state tuition-free college programs or proposals. They built an eight-step evaluation to use when assessing free college program quality:

  1. Whether the programs cover living expenses;
  2. Whether they cover fees;
  3. Whether they cover the total cost of tuition for at least four years of college;
  4. Whether they include bachelor’s-degree programs;
  5. Whether adult students are eligible;
  6. Whether repayment of aid is required under certain circumstances;
  7. Whether there are GPA requirements; and
  8. Whether there are additional requirements to maintain eligibility

 

Although there is a growing national focus on free college, and even more state-level attention on this issue, a uniform agreement on what this should look like is lacking. There is no general consensus on what free college should look like and the scope of what “free” would truly mean. However, the overarching common goal of making college affordable and accessible will keep the conversation around free college moving forward.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: Limitations and Challenges

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

Advance CTE is writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore some of the challenges inherent in free college programs. Check out previous blogs on the history of free college and Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program, and look back next week for a blog on the future of free college.

Free college programs have become a popular idea to combat the rising cost of higher education and increase postsecondary attainment for all. However, a variety of different types of initiatives are branded as “free college,” when in reality that term can be misleading for what is actually provided. For example, state-led free college programs are typically “last dollar in.” This means that first grant aid, such as Pell grants, is given to learners and the state will pay for the remaining tuition. Although this is a significant contribution, this “last dollar” practice means that students are using only grant money for tuition instead of putting it towards additional costs of college such as housing, food, textbooks and any other fees. Most of the states that offer free college programs do so through this approach. Additionally, these free college initiatives are often directed toward students who recently graduated high school leaving non-traditional students with large financial barriers.

Free college is really addressed at the state level, instead of the federal level, which means there are inherent limitations. There are considerable constraints on the amount of money states are able to put toward free college programs. In order to keep the state costs low, limits are put on who is eligible and how exactly the money can be applied to the college. For example, states may only open free college programs to recent high school graduates and allow the money to be applied to community colleges, certain areas of study or include the stipulation that participants have to live and work in that state for a number of years.

Overall, state funding to higher education is shrinking. When states are forced to cut portions of their budget, higher education is typically one of the first areas to feel the impact. What’s more, Most of the state tuition-free programs are discretionary, so the allocated amount can change every year.  

Although the free college movement can improve access, because of the many limitations to what free college can actually mean, access is limited for low-income students. The Education Trust’s, “A Promise Fulfilled,” looked at 15 current and 16 proposed state free college programs, and found that unless they are specifically designed to address the needs of low-income students, they do not benefit these learners.

It is clear that although the notion of free college is a positive one, in practice such programs do not always increase opportunities for higher education for everyone. These programs do have potential for more equitable access to postsecondary education if they are created with intentionality. However, if the cost of college continues to go up, increased and equitable postsecondary attainment will persistently be a challenge.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Advance CTE will be writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore one example of a free college program. Check out last week’s blog on the history of free college, and look for future blogs on the challenges and future of free college.

The idea of free college has gained traction in a number of states. Indiana has been at the forefront of this movement, and has had some form of free college for the past 30 years. Currently, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program allows participants up to four years of free enrollment at a two or four-year institution. This covers the cost of tuition and any additional fees. Indiana is unique in including four-year colleges in this program, since fewer than half of states with free college initiatives include four-year institutions in their policies. 

This program covers tuition on a “first dollar” basis, meaning that students remain eligible for other forms of aid to go toward non-tuition expenses. Any additional aid learners might receive from the state is not impacted by grants received to cover non-tuition charges.  

Learners can become involved in this program as early as seventh grade. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in seventh or eighth grade are eligible to apply to be part of 21st Century Scholars. Below are 12 requirements that participating students must meet throughout high school in order to qualify:

In 2017, the program granted over $160 million in financial aid. As of the fall of 2018, there were about 80,000 program participants throughout middle and high school and 20,000 in college. This program has bipartisan support in the state.  

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Uncategorized
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Free College: A Brief Policy History

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Advance CTE will be writing a series of blog posts profiling the policies and practices of free college in the United States. This post will explore the history of the movement toward free college. Check back for blogs on the challenges, successful practices and future of free college.

College affordability, or lack of affordability, is one of the most pressing problem in the world of higher education. Free postsecondary education has long been a topic of conversation, and various models have been piloted at the state and local levels. The Atlantic’s “Debt Free” article explains that this idea was given renewed national attention when former President Barack Obama addressed the topic in his 2015 State of the Union speech. In particular, President Obama advocated that the place to start implementing such policies was in community colleges. Afterward, with the upcoming presidential election campaigns underway, the conversation of free college remained part of many candidates dialogue. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, was a vocal advocate.

Some state higher education institutions previously held free college policies, but found that model unsustainable over time. TIME’s piece, “What Happened When American States Tried Providing Tuition-Free College,” profiled some such examples:

A main driver behind institutions pulling back on free college practices has to do with the significant increase in enrollment, as reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Whereas in the 1909-1910 school year only 355,000 of Americans 19-24 years old (2.9 percent of those in that age bracket) enrolled in higher education, by 2012 that number increased to 31.4 million (41 percent). At the same time, state and local funding for public colleges and universities decreased. Just from 2008-2016, overall state dollar allocation across the country to institutions of higher education has declined by 16 percent. If free college policies were put in place at the founding of an institution, the combination of increased enrollment and decreased state and local funding made the model unsustainable.

Meredith Hills, Policy Associate

By Meredith Hills in Research, Uncategorized
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Making the Most of Outcomes-based Funding: Aligning Postsecondary Funding with Labor Market Needs

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

One of the smartest investments state policymakers can make is in postsecondary education. As the economy moves towards more specialized, technology-based industries, learners will need education and training beyond high school to fill the jobs of tomorrow. Today, the ticket to the middle class, and the key ingredient for a thriving state economy, is a strong system of higher education.

Yet, this system is not as efficient as it could be. Three out of every four students who enroll in a public, two-year college do not graduate with a degree or certificate within three years. Whether due to financial or family circumstances, lack of clarity about future career goals, or poor academic preparation, too many students are getting saddled with debt and nothing to show for it.

In recent years states have led renewed efforts to improve student outcomes by restructuring postsecondary funding formulas. This approach, known as performance-based or outcomes-based funding, aims to align state dollars with outcomes that support learner success and economic growth, including progress toward and attainment of a postsecondary credential.

As of Fiscal Year 2016, 30 states were either implementing or developing outcomes-based funding formulas for postsecondary education, though two-year institutions were included in the funding formula in only 22 states. While the widespread enthusiasm for accountability and alignment in higher education funding is remarkable, states vary considerably in their degree of commitment. According to HCM strategies, which published a national scan of outcomes-based funding formulas, only four states (OH, NV, ND and TN) in FY2016 distributed more than 20 percent of state funds to postsecondary institutions based on outcomes.

In 2017, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) reported that a little more than half of the revenues for postsecondary institutions came from state appropriations (the remaining funding came from local appropriations (6.4 percent) and tuition revenues (43.3 percent)). This gives state policymakers a powerful lever to incentivize change in institutions of higher education.

And, while evidence in support of outcomes-based funding is mixed, positive results have been documented in states with more sophisticated funding systems:

Many states have learned from these lessons and either modified existing or adopted new outcomes-based funding formulas to apply best practices. Arkansas is one such state. In 2016, the state legislature passed HB1209, directing the Higher Education Coordinating Board to design a productivity-based funding formula for state colleges and universities. The formula, which will be used to determine how the Higher Education Coordinating Board distributes general revenue for two-year and four-year institutions,  includes three dimensions:

What is notable about Arkansas’ approach is the use of best practices to incentivize credentials with labor market value and encourage equitable access.

The points an institution receives in the formula for credential attainment are multiplied if the credentials are in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or state-defined “high-demand” fields. Qualifying fields are designated by the the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Department of Workforce Services. The multiplier for STEM degrees is 3 points; the multiplier for degrees in high-demand fields is 1.5 points.

The formula also includes adjustments for historically underserved students by race, income, age and academic proficiency. For certain elements of the formula — such as credential attainment or progression — the point value is increase by 29 percent for each student meeting these criteria.

While it is too early to tell the impact of these changes, Arkansas’ productivity index aims to improve postsecondary outcomes by aligning state funding with labor market needs and encouraging institutions to support historically underserved populations.

Austin Estes, Senior Policy Associate

By Austin Estes in Research
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